Friday, December 16, 2011

Blogoversary, Part Two/Salted Peanut, Double Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie. Whew.

Cookies. How I love thee.

And like all good things in life, it takes work to make the perfect batch. Well, not to make them, per se. Baking them in batches is tiresome. Whipping up and eating a bucket-load of cookie dough? Easy as pie.

Pie isn't all that easy, by the way.

Cookie dough is bonafide Easetown. It's a one bowl wonder. Make the dough, scarf down a third of it, bake a third, flash-freeze the remaining dough and bake yourself some piping hot monster-sized cookies whenever you want. Breakfast, post-gym, midnight television. Carry some for sleep-overs and become the most popular girl there.

I'm speaking from life experience.

Make these cookies. You know; for the sake of life experiences. Don't be scared of the salted peanuts and chocolate chips. It works on ten different levels.

I made mine from 3/4th of a big Cadbury's Dairy Milk Bar. Notice the white Toblerone? I'm not a fan of white chocolate, but it goes pretty well in this recipe. I've adapted this from Brown Eyed Baker, who has never let me down when I want something with peanut butter and chocolate in it.

Add a little extra if you're going to keep stealing and stuffing your face! I always do.

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal-Double-Chocolate-Chip cookies:
(makes 32 cookies)


2 cups all-purpose flour (maida)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup granulated white sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup salted, roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup white or milk chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 180 degrees C  (350 degrees F).

Line a baking tray with aluminium foil or parchment paper and keep it aside.

In a big bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Keep aside.

In another bowl, beat together the butter, peanut butter, eggs, vanilla essence, white and brown sugar on Medium speed for around 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until combined.

Fold in the flour mix with a spatula, until just combined. Stir in the oats and the nuts, give it a mix.

Finally, add the chocolate chips. 

Place the cookie dough  in the form of scoops on the aluminium foil (no need to grease), leaving around 5 cms between each cookie. If you're using unsalted peanuts, you could try sprinkling half a pinch of coarse salt over the cookie dough before baking. Make indentations with a fork, if you like.

Bake for around 10 minutes, until lightly brown.

See the overbaked brown one? Not as chewy! :(
Pull out, let it cool completely on the foil. Store in air-tight containers.

Do have a cookie hot out of the oven. Dunk it in chocolate syrup or make an ice-cream sandwich. Eat half a dozen for dinner. Do get a full fasting lipid profile. Kidding. Oats and dark chocolate should cancel out the butter, no?

Are any cookie-houses hiring PR people?

Blogoversary, Part One/Walk in The Park!

It's been a year.

This exact day, one year back, I wrote a semi-narcissistic piece on how much I love food. Should I be worried that not a thing has changed? No. I'll save that for the quarter-life-crisis I'm due for next year.

A full year of cooking, taking bad photographs and borderline-raving to the gourmands of the blogosphere... and I'm hungry for more. Sigh. Beyond help.

The first few posts averaged around 15 views, on a good day. That didn't deter me. I continued eating, writing, eating whilst writing. Over the course of a few months, thanks to friends (and mum's friends) and word-of-mouth, the Stats-meter took an uphill journey. I still don't understand why anybody would be interested in reading a paragraph on the nuances of sour cream versus Greek yogurt versus creme fraiche. It's madness.

I get recognised as the "food blog girl." I get asked about what brand of cocoa powder to buy and what steak to order, more than I do about nebulizers and antibiotics. I get so many heart whelming "I loved your strawberry scones". All this for food-blog-hopping and baking brownies! It's insane and amazing, but mostly insane.

Oh, I've had brickbats, as well. "A doctor like you shouldn't be wasting time","why this obssession with food" and similar. But for the most part, I'm doing what I love and nothing makes me happier than being recognised as the "food blog girl."

So here's a huge thank you to all the like minded people who come here to indulge their inner fat-child. I will continue to ply you all with all the butter and demerara sugar Nilgris has on its shelves.

This calls for a celebration: I'll be reviewing the best food I've eaten this year today, as well as posting the recipe (as Part Two, tomorrow) for Salted Peanut, Triple Chocolate, Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies. It's one of those things that give you food-gasms and epiphanies... and there are no controlled substances involved.

Jettez un coup d'oeil (that's the last of the rudimentary French garnered at school: roughly translates to "Cast your eyes") on photos taken during a meal at 601 at The Park and dessert at Latitude 13 by The Park.

The Park needs no introduction. I don't have to talk about the brilliant hospitality, the classy interiors or the college-educated waiters (at least at 601). I, especially, do not have to mention the prices (they're pretty high, I'll stop at that. Like the Salvatore Ferragamo pumps on magazine spreads that just have "Price on Request" underneath them).

W and I had saved The Park for a special occasion. As usual, we just ended up going there dressed in work wear (not good when you work in a hospital) while on the hunt for a clean loo.

The clink of cutlery and Hunger (my omnipresent, un-imaginary friend) steered us in the direction of 601.
Hunger also dictates you order basic things that fill your soul and stomach. So. Pizza and Fish-and-chips. Sat back, in preprandial glee, almost saying "show us what you got. Entertain us."

Soon after placing the order, we were served with the bread basket filled to the brim with soft, delicate little dinner rolls brushed with butter, sprinkled with Sea Salt and grains and baked to a gorgeous golden-brown.

Carbaholics that we are, we finished the whole basket. We weren't going back there any day soon, so appearances didn't matter. The open butter chiplet should confirm the fact.

And the pizza that made me a convert from a only-deep dish-please girl to a thin-crust-can-taste-this-good? girl.

Chunky, juicy chicken.

Yummy jalapenos.

Gooey mozzarella.

Sprinkled with a wee bit of dried oregano and chilli.

This is better than the pizzas I've had at Tuscana. And it costs about the same.

As for the fish-and-chips.

Golden, non-oily, breaded-to-perfection fish fingers.

Fries that were almost a metre-long; crisp on the outside, tender and steamy on the inside. One thing I have to mention is the palpable grains of salt coating the fries. Nirvana. Hello, hello, hello!

The in-house tartar sauce and ketchup? Drinkable. Ask for refills. You're paying enough.

All I needed was a huge glass of chocolate milkshake with a striped red straw and I'd be done with good food for life.

The two of us finished every single morsel on the plate. That left us with no room whatsoever for dessert.

So on another occasion (Eid, to be precise), the cousins and I hit Latitude 13 by The Park on Wallace Garden Road.

The bill wasn't frighteningly high here, as we ordered the Hi-Tea combo. For 190 bucks (exclusive of taxes), you get a mug of coffee/tea and a dessert.

I got the Chocolate Truffle Cake, because it was Eid, and calories don't count on Eid.

Sarbee had an Apple-cranberry (I think) tart with vanilla ice cream (?gelato).

Love the chocolate syrup and condensed-milk zig-zags.

Also love it when ice-cream speckled with vanilla beans forms a cold puddle over flaky tart.

N joined us after dessert #1 at Sandy's Chocolate Laboratory, so she just had an apres-dessert sorbet. I'm blessed with crazies in the family; girls who do not fuss about one-dessert-per-day limits and the like.

The tea was a mug of garden-variety English Breakfast.

But my Cafe Mocha, with a thin almond biscotti, was delicious. If you discount the alarming smiley face.

Here's to biting into the new year!

Tomorrow, all you lovely people get to feast your eyes on the aforementioned triple-chocolate-chip-peanut-butter cookies.

Auf Wiederhausen! (yes, I treat myself to late night masochism in the form of Project Runway, cookies on the side).

P.S. Before I forget, thank you all so much. Again.

Friday, December 2, 2011

By The Bay!

Madras during the Monsoon.

I apologise, in advance, if I take a detour from the grub-talk and wax eloquently on the sporadic-yet-bloody-gorgeous showers (replete with thunder and lightening, I kid you not), the cliched mugs of hot cocoa in front of the window (chai-and-pakoda, corn on the cob, pick your poison) and state-declared holidays.

Not to mention what happens to the beach. Besant Nagar, in this context, in all obviousness. It's desolate (compared to your regular Sunday-rush of families with screechy children, lovers perched under roomy umbrellas and a paraphernalia of vendors selling everything from plastic watches, bootha kannadi to molaga bajjis.)

And the food there. You want momos? Got it.

Sweet corn with a myriad of seasoning? Got it.

Gelato and Ice Gola? Check and Check.

Expensive coffee, beach-side burgers, Dindugal Thalapakkatu Biryani? Yes, yes and yes.

It never was complete, though. La Boulangerie's chocolate cake and FunkJazz's doughnuts should logically hit the spot for me. Still. There was a niggling hole in the picture.

I wanted something more. Something warm. Toasty. Spicy. Hearty. The rain awakens taste buds you didn't know existed.

The answer to that Sphinx-y question can only be ONE thing. A shawarma!

The shawarmas I've had in India are a disappointment and a half. Thin white quboos: Blahdom. Oily mayonnaise making the whole thing soggy: Instant turn-off. Chicken filling: Usually yum, but overwhelmed by the fatty mayo and the sad little shreds of cabbage.

That is not a shawarma, people. If you want a real shawarma as God intended to be, in all its goodness, go to By The Bay. A Lebanese restaurant right next to Mash and FunkJazz on Besant Nagar Beach Road. They make a mean shawarma, pretty damn close to the actual thing and quite frankly, the best I've had in Madras.

You'll have to wait 15 minutes for it to be done. Completely worth it. The proportions are such that you'll have to hold with two hands. Sold.

Notice the panini/sandwich maching thingy? That's to toast the whole thing.

Fat, warm quboos envelopes grilled chicken with the tastiest spice rub, potato wedges, red cabbage, flecks of parsley and a thoum (garlic cream) so delicious, I want to use it as Body Butter for the rest of my life.

The whole shawarma is toasted after being assembled, the grill marks showing up on the bread. It is an experience. My only grouse was the potato wedges weren't crisp enough, but they melded into a mashed-potato-y cream in the shawarma, so it wasn't that big of a deal. You'll also need to stuff in the pickled radishes and cucumber if you like your shawarmas salty.

Just make the perfect bite, look into the rain and indulge.

The chicken and beef Shawarma both cost around 100 bucks each.

The Chicken Laham pita-wich (sandwich, in a pita bread) consists of three sheek-type charcoal grilled kebabs on a decent-sized pita. The pita is strewed with crunchy, flavourful onions, parsley and more thoum, pickles and french fries. At 120 bucks, it's a steal.

The other thing we ordered was a stew-type thing. Charcoal grilled shammi-shaped chicken with a vinegary stew filled with hearty carrots, potatoes, broccoli, onions, peppers and middle eastern-spices.

Along with Qabsa (arabic biryani), fries, a bread-basket filled with warm pita, hummus, thoum, pickles. All this for Rs. 240. Hard to believe? And most of the components were well-executed and a delight to sample. The Arabic biryani alone was little too oily for me... it wasn't all yellow and fluffy and steamy the way I usually have Qabsa.

Two of us could not finish the whole thing, but it was one heck of a delicious try.

The one other thing you must sample are the Za'atyers. Reminiscent of a pizza, it consists of sauces and chicken and cheese (subbing Haloumi and Muhammara-ish sauce, of course) and it smelt amazing, coming fresh out of a real wood-fired oven; something I'm definitely going back for.

By The Bay is one of the newer additions to Madras's culinary scene that I'm in love with. I hope it stays this way..

Their tag line reads "Not Authentically Arabic", but at these prices? لذيذ جدا

One more thing that'll take me back is the desserts I didn't have room to sample! They have Mohalabbia on the menu and it has my name written all over it. Literally and figuratively.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Oreo Cheesecake Truffles/"Dessert in a Minute!" or similar.

This post has been in the works for a long time now.

Especially after all those yummy, but let's be honest, tiresomely-long recipes, I wanted to let you know that I do have two-minute desserts up my sleeve. Literally and figuratively.

If you're ready to splash out on a dessert, or if you live in a country that isn't Robin Hoodian, this one is for you.

Actually, Robin Hood is an unfair comparison; he stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Here? They steal from the rich (an exorbitant VAT on cream cheese and cocoa powder) and from the "middle class" (fuel, public transport, milk) and from the dirt-poor (ration kerosene, rice, sugar) and store it in their own little coffers until the Opposition comes into power, unearth unfair wealth, splash it over their syndicated publications and proceed to transfer the funds to their own Cayman Island accounts. It's a lovely little vicious cycle.

I made this because

a)it has LOADS of chocolate in it.
b)Zaad and Sumaiya are huge fans of "cook-ay balls!"
c)A's birthday happened. This dessert has no eggs (that's never stopped her from eating dessert, but still, I wanted her folks to think I was empathetic towards their vegetarian beliefs). Oh, and she is one of the last few people on the planet who have no qualms about calories. The I-don't-give-a-crap-about-calories thing is refreshing, try it.

And yes, it takes only a few minutes to whip up. The downside to this recipe (not considering the pricey ingredients) would be the inclusion of Oreo cookies.

I don't like Oreos (fun fact #45 about me). I'd rather eat white chocolate than Oreos and if I were the type to use the word hate for food... well, I can't, so let's just say I wouldn't eat white chocolate or Oreos even if you paid me.

I know that hasn't stopped me from putting it into frothy milkshakes and birthday cakes, but I really wouldn't sit down, unwrap a vivid blue packet and stuff Oreos in my mouth. I'd do that with Hide 'N' Seek, but something about the white transfatty sandwich cream is very off-putting.

These Cheesecake Truffle Balls? I love. Blatant hypocrisy, I know, especially after that holier-than-thou speech about transfats but I belong to the well-established category of hypocrites who skip a meal and eat Nutella in lieu of the saved calories. Fun fact # 56.

This recipe needs about 1.75 long packs of Oreos. Buy two packs, take two cookies out and give it to the people hovering over you as you're cooking. That should keep them busy for a while.

You want to know why you'll have people "acting like they've never seen food" around? (Quoting mum). Maybe because of the half-kilogram's worth of chocolate laying around, as part of the mise en place.

Please use chocolate that you actually enjoy eating. No "Cooking Chocolate" from the frozen goods aisle or candy melts. Use good quality chocolate, preferably with 44% Cacao content. If you're skimping on calories or money, just bookmark this for another day?

Also, try not to eat too much of the prep work, yes? Being a hypocrite, again. Nom Nom Nom.

Oreo Cheesecake Truffles:

Recipe source: Bakerella


1.75 long packets of Cadbury Oreos (the 137 g pack)
80 g cream cheese
Miscellaneous chocolate for coating


In a mixie or food processor, blitz the oreos, with the cream-centre and all, until you have a sandy mixture.

Transfer to a large bowl. Crush with the back of a spoon, if any biscuitty particles remain.

Fold in the softened cream cheese. You'll have a mixture that looks like this. If not, add in a little more cream cheese.

Form the mixture into bite-sized balls. Place these balls on a foil-lined or wax-paper lined tray. Freeze for about half an hour, so the shape holds.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, break up the chocolate into chunks. Make sure there isn't ONE SINGLE DROP of water in the bowl or the spoon you're using.

Run the bowl in the microwave for around a minute, then remove and stir in order to melt the chocolate properly. If there are little chunks, don't worry, it'll all melt in the residual heat.

Using two forks, dip the frozen cookie ball in the pool of melted chocolate until it's fully coated.

Transfer the ball back into the cookie sheet or cupcake liners. Let it fully dry and harden.

If you've used a toothpick, this is what will happen.

Refrigerate (do not freeze), covered, until you're ready to eat it!

Make sure it's hidden in some obscure cul-de-sac of the refrigerator. Especially if you have random toddlers running around (by that I mean your nephew and miscellaneous family), they will steal it, despite running a 102 degree fever.

This should make up for the Creme Caramel and the Dulce de Leche, I hope. Pretend I said some corny parting greeting, along the lines of "Dessert in a Minute!" or similar.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Creme Caramel Pudding/Eid Mubarak.

It's been 70 days since Eid-ul-Fitr (The Eid that comes at the pointy end of Ramadan). 70 rainy (not all of them, I should hasten to add) days and very few blog posts. It's Eid-ul-Adha already (the one with sacrificial goat).

The idea of putting up harried, uninspired posts doesn't, at all, appeal to me. Recipe cards and Twitter-like reviews of the kick-ass places that have been sprouting around the nooks and crannies of Madras, maybe?

Or I could just give up going to the gym and post instead (Yes!) That'll work out well for all of us.

Instead of disbanding the blog altogether (saddening, because it's a product of my rapidly degenerating-but-still brain and my ever-growing love of all things edible-and-halal), I'll drop by when I have something I have to foist on everybody.

Case in point: it's Bakrid today! The festival of sacrifice. I'm going to make one of my most favourite desserts of all time. And then sacrifice it for the ones I love. Or double the recipe and keep a portion for myself. It's still sacrifice, voluntarily giving up dessert and all. It is, OK?

Dessert. I've compiled so many adjectives for the course, I could have a showdown with both Matt Preston and Nigella Lawson, and still win.

Dark Chocolate. Espresso. Peanut Butter. Nutella. Salt. Dark Chocolate. Mint. Demerara sugar. Raspberry. Dark Chocolate. Apple. Cinnamon. Pretty much covers all the dessert ingredients I'd give a passing grade for. However, before going off-tangent, I started like everybody else (we're all inherently good). With Dairy. And loads of it.

Crusty, day-old bread soaked in milk with a teensy sprinkling of sugar and a drop of vanilla. Creamy kheer (one portion I'd have warm, straight from the pot, and one portion, all cold, at midnight, with Friends). Sheer korma. Rice pudding with jam. Trifle with custard, jelly and sponge cake. Coconut-milk based Jaw arasi payasam (sago/tapioca payasam). Pineapple kesari.

Comfort food, all of it is. On a regular day, I'd take a Dark Chocolate Caramel Ganache Tart. On a horrible day which is on its way to Horrible-r lands, I'd take the comfort food.

Topping the comfort food list would be Caramel Pudding. Yes, of the Creme Caramel/Vanilla pudding mix variety that you get in green boxes and can be whipped up in a jiffy. Or the real way of making Creme Caramel, the only one worth trading in your skinny jeans for. I'm sure your granny or your mum has a treasured recipe for it. If not, you'd be happy to know that I'm giving away my family's version. Don't tell my mum. Kidding. Or am I?

This recipe has a lot of eggs, milk and sugar. Not much else; so you can spare me the "where in the world (I know you mean Madras by this) would I find Madagascar vanilla beans  or gold gelatin leaves?" The equipment, if we're getting all technical, would be an aluminium anda or a Rice cooker. No sorbet-crankers or waffle irons. This pudding does originate from a gazillion years back, before newfangled notions like electricity existed/was accepted.

If you like Creme Brulee or a good New York style Cheesecake, give this one a shot.

Creme Caramel

This makes a dense, cheesecake-like pudding. If you want a wobbly, flan-like pudding, reduce the cooking hours of both the milk and the pudding by half!

Whole milk: 2.5 litres
Eggs- 3 cups (approximately 14 or more)
Sugar (white, granulated)-3 cups
Vanilla essence: 2 tbsp
Sugar for the caramel glaze: as needed.


Note: The proportions of the thick milk jam:sugar:eggs is 1:1:1, so feel free to play around keeping the ration in mind.

On a low fire, heat whole milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Make sure the bottom doesn't burn. Stir occasionally.

The milk will thicken and reduce down to less than half of the original quantity. This will take an hour or more.

At the end of the boiling process, you'll get a milk jam (sort of like a thinned-down Dulce de Leche or Confiture du Lait) that'll measure around 3 cups/tumblers.

And it's OK that there are icky bits of malai/milk skin/adai in it, we'll be straining the milk mixture.

Beat with a immersion/stick blender for 10 seconds, so you break down the skin. This step can be skipped.

Add in the sugar and eggs.

With the eggs, I can't give you an exact number since I don't know if you prefer free range, organic or the jumbo variety. Just keep breaking and pouring them out until you get 3 cups worth of egg whites and yolk.

Fold it all well with a spatula. Add in good quality vanilla so that you won't have a eggy smell at the end.
 Don't be tempted to use the stick blender after adding the eggs and the sugar as this will tamper with the smooth silkiness of the pudding. Mix until it forms a cohesive batter.

Next, strain the pudding batter through a fine sieve.

Keep aside the pudding batter.

Making the caramel top:

In a stainless steel or aluminium deep vessel (make sure it's DRY, not one drop of water allowed), add a couple of tablespoons of granulated white sugar so a layer of it covers the bottom.

On a low heat, swirl the sugar around. DO NOT use a spoon or spatula. Just toss the pan around.

An amber to golden caramel base will form.

Keep aside and let it cool and harden. If you pour in the pudding straight away, it'll mix with the sugar!

Pour the pudding batter into the prepared moulds (the bowls in which you've melted sugar into a golden glass-like layer).

Steaming the pudding:

You can use a water bath. Take an aluminium vessel. Fill up to a third to half of it with water.
Position a ring mould in the centre of the vessel. Place your filled pudding mould into it. Cover the pudding mould with a stainless steel lid or aluminium foil. Cover the water- bath with a bigger lid. Let the pudding steam on low heat on the gas range in this manner  for 3 hours.

Using the rice cooker:

This photo was clicked at the end of three hours of cooking time. You'll need way more water for your water bath!!
 Filling a third of the rice cooker with water. Place the ring, then the filled pudding mould. Cover the mould with a stainless steel lid. Cover the rice cooker with its own lid. Let it cook for 3 hours.

At the end of the steaming, it should look like this.

If you feel it needs more time, so be it. Take out the pudding, let it cool for an hour or so.

Unmould it into your plate. Run a knife through the edges before unmoulding if you think it necessary.

Once the pudding is fully cooled, place it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving.

I know this whole process sounds scary and labour intensive, but it is in fact one of the easiest desserts to whip up. Only the cooking time can be a little weird and prolonged, but it is a special day and for special people, so all things considered? Win.

Especially when the brunt work of it was done by the sister-in-law. Thanks, BV!

Eid Mubarak, you lot. Make sure you eat some extra biryani for me. And dessert. Always the dessert.